Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Is 49ers QB Trey Lance getting better? And is it because of his new teacher? One expert shares his thoughts

Marc Adams
May 25, 2023 at 12:52 PM--

Sometimes who is teaching is as important as what is being taught

Earlier this week, when the San Francisco 49ers opened up an OTAs session to the media, most of the eyes, in person and online, were on third-year quarterback Trey Lance's new delivery. Lance, of course, had been working with QB guru, Jeff Christensen, and thanks to some leaked footage of Lance throwing with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, along with a very well-timed piece by Matt Barrows in The Athletic, there was plenty of reason to be hopeful that the young QB had made some "substantial" mechanical changes to help his sub-par accuracy.

This week, Grant Cohn sat down with Austyn Carta-Samuels, a former college quarterback, coach, and director of recruiting who now works with quarterbacks to discuss Lance's delivery. Carta-Samuels works with quarterbacks from a mechanical standpoint, but even more so from a mental standpoint.

Carta-Samuels said Lance needs to learn how his body works, because he is, essentially, having to unlearn things due to his being asked to do things that are very different from what he was asked to do in college. Carta-Samuels said Lance, "doesn't trust himself to do some of the things he's being asked to do." It stands to reason. If Lance is truly needing to be reprogrammed, how could he trust himself at this point? This is one of the reasons the 49ers (and fans) need to be patient with the young QB.

Cohn asked the former quarterback how long it took him to unlearn what he had been taught. "It took me two and a half, three years," Carta-Samuels said, "but now I can do it for guys in three months."

Carta-Samuels talks a lot about the direction a quarterback is leaning when he throws, explaining, "It has to do with body weight. So like, if I'm leaning to the right, to my throwing side, while I'm throwing the ball, I'm increasing the weight that I have on my back foot, and the throw is a turn, not a push. So as I'm leaning right and turning through that back'll feel that foot chew the ground up a little bit. And that, in and of itself, is ground force.

"That's taking power from the ground, whereas Trey has been so high forever, and you can see it in everything he does, so he's so light that there's nothing happening in the ground. And he's starting to get a little bit of that. That's what's starting to change. But before, 150% arm-based thrower all the time. And then, he admitted it in his interview the other day when he was like, 'I was throwing, throwing, throwing, throwing' because he was trying to get a better feel for it, not understanding that you have to work smarter, bud, not harder."

Carta-Samuels mentioned how Lance's transformation is about finding the right people to help him understand himself. That doesn't mean he's suggesting the 49ers coaches haven't been capable of helping Lance, but that it's more like when you have a teacher who isn't clicking with you, compared to one that does. Two teachers (or coaches) can teach the same principles, but communicate them differently enough that the student gets nothing from one teacher and yet learns it all from the other. Sometimes who is teaching is as important as what is being taught.

My daughter, Hannah, is in high school. As a freshman, she was having a hard time in Algebra. I just assumed she was like me, and that Math wasn't her strong point. But the next year, in Algebra II, she had a different teacher, with a great reputation for helping her students. Under this new teacher, Hannah flourished. Not because she had changed, but because her teacher had changed. Same kid. Different teacher. New result.

It's possible that this is why Lance is now making strides, as opposed to when he was working with other coaches in previous off-seasons. The 49ers prefer that their QBs work with 3DQB, in the Los Angeles area, because they know Kyle Shanahan's offense and will train the 49ers' quarterbacks accordingly. Lance has worked with them before. Perhaps this time, Lance decided to go his own way. And it may be paying off for him.

This could also explain why Barrows told Larry Krueger that when he asked Christensen who set up the relationship, the QB coach declined to answer.

Cohn asked Carta-Samuels to expound on his thoughts of what he sees in Lance's delivery. "At its foundation," said Carta-Samuels, "Trey Lance doesn't trust himself to throw a one-ball, two-ball, and three-ball anywhere on the field. A one-ball, two-ball, three-ball is just the pace of the football. So, your average throwers in the NFL are going to throw all one-balls. It's gonna be as hard as they can throw because they have to be able to throw it as hard as shit to be able to control the ball down the field."

He added that the best throwers are artists, who you see change the speed and angle of every single ball they throw, like Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. "In a lot of ways, what I tell people to look at is, don't look at how a guy throws a bang post, or how he throws a dig, look at how he throws a drag," said Carta-Samuels.

He said Lance throws a drag (a route meant to be thrown with more touch than power), way too hard, while someone like Rodgers throws it with more of a flick of the wrist. "Trey Lance has no wrist. He has no feel for his wrist," added Carta-Samuels. "Everything is power, and that's because that power is being generated from his upper half. Is he using his hips a little bit? Yea. But there's no strong connection through the ground in his back leg."

It makes sense. I can remember Bill Walsh, years ago, talking about evaluating quarterbacks, using Joe Montana as an example, and explaining how a quarterback's footwork is the most important part of his mechanics. So hearing that Lance needs to work more on his base, and stop being an "arm-thrower" stands to reason.

Carta-Samuels had more to say about Lance's mindset and mechanics. You can watch the rest of the interview below. In the meantime, we'll continue to trust that Lance is able to make the necessary changes so he can become the quarterback the 49ers hope he can become.

The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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